Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cosmocking: April '13!

Yellow cover!  Kim Kardashian!  I don't know what's going on with her... lower garment!  I think Cosmo's stylists are getting pretty desperate to make the 35,000-year-old concept of "wearing clothes" seem fresh and new every month!  Go ahead and trace a line from the center of Kim's cleavage to the center of her neck and explain what kind of skeletal structure that implies!  Also please note that her arms are different lengths!

(I think what's going on here is that they've Photoshopped away all creases and features on her neck, which makes the side of her neck look like the front.  And they posed her with both arms behind her so that her chest would stick out, but then her right arm looked wrong or wasn't visible, so they pasted on a replacement arm.  Which would explain the surreal way her hand is interacting with her thighs.)
"I loved reading 'Can Sex Make You Skinnier?'  The next time I had an intense carb craving, I marched right into my bedroom and pounced on my sleeping, unsuspecting boyfriend.  I'm thankful for my new weapon in battling bulge, and my boyfriend is too!  Thanks, Cosmo!"  --Sarah A., Nashville, Tenn.
I'm not, like, an expert in forensic writing analysis or anything, but I think Cosmo's letters page is fake.  Just a hunch here.

Also I would prefer to not eroticize "pouncing" on "unsuspecting" people, but if I point out every time Cosmo does that, we'll be here all day.
Four tiny bottles, each with a secret code name, sit on a shiny table in front of Kim Kardashian, awaiting inspection.  Inside the vial are versions of her latest fragrance, Glam, which is being tweaked to appeal to Japanese consumers. [...] She waves each test strip in front of her perfect, pert nose.  Opulence is too heavy for Asian tastes, she proclaims.  Sequins? Too soft.  "I don't even smell Glitzy any more," she says, before settling on her choice: Geisha Garden.
Kim Kardashian, cross-cultural marketing genius.
Within hookup culture on college campuses, dating is one of the most radical, nonconformist things you can do.
Oh, for fuck's sake.  Yes, young people have casual sex.  No, the entire population between ages 16 and 26 is not subsumed into this boogeyman "hookup culture" where they're all like "what is this Earth thing you call 'love'?"  I would really like the media to get over this particular obsession already and move on to telling us that eating caramel leads to Satanism, or something.
Because our ancestors spoke with their bodies rather than language, we learn more from gestures than words when first meeting someone.  If he's facing you directly, you have his full attention.
I don't think we needed to invoke grunting cavemen to explain the concept of "people look at things they're interested in."

...I would also like to explain to Cosmo that all language is produced by the body.
Make him feel like a piece of meat: "It's a huge turn-on to hear a woman objectify me," 30-year-old Christopher says.  "It seems simple, but it's so powerful."  Take his words to heart and don't be afraid to tell your guy everything you like about his body or what he does that drives you crazy.  He'll be obsessed.
That's not what objectification means.  That's not making him feel like a piece of meat.  That's just sexual compliments.  Yeah, sure, it's easy to say "I don't know what those ladies are complaining about, you can objectify me anytime" if you think it means your girlfriend tells you you have sexy abs.

Objectification is focusing on a person's usefulness to you with total disregard for their desires.  In the context of compliments, it's not saying "You turn me on."  It's saying "You turn me on, and whether you want to turn me on is utterly irrelevant."

Saying "nice ass" to a person who's deliberately wiggling their ass at you is a compliment; saying "nice ass" to a person who's just walking by is objectification.  "I want to sleep with her" is expressing desire;  "I'd hit it" is objectification.  "You're sexy" is nice to say on a date because it's a compliment; "you're sexy" is hideously undermining to say at a business meeting because it's objectification.
Q: My guy constantly asks me for cash to pay the bills.  He's going through a rough time and I don't mind helping out, but how can I stop this from being a regular thing? 
A: The fact that he's asking you for financial help--a tough thing for many guys to do--is a sign that he trusts you.

He Said He Wasn't Ready For Kids [...]  One month, I realized I'd forgotten to take my birth control pill... for five days.  I asked Matt if he thought this was a sign.  "I don't think it's time yet," he said.  Three months later, the same thing happened.
Oh shit, I already used my "this will not end well" image.

(In seriousness, sabotaging birth control is a horrible thing to do, both to your partner and your potential child.  It's really not a cutesy-wootsey "tee hee, whoopsy daisy, hint hint" thing to do.  It's pretty highly correlated with domestic violence.)
The Man-Child Meter  
[selected items from a big boring list of stuff like "he's a man-child if he only eats pizza" and "he's a real man if he has nice wineglasses"]
Man-Child: Invites you over to watch a movie, then texts you to pick up a six-pack on the way 
Getting There: Attempts to go down on you (he's trying!) 
Yep, He's A Man: Reaches for a condom before you have to ask
1. What's wrong with asking someone to bring beer?  I guess it's a little demanding, but "hey, honey, I'm out of beer over here, you want to bring some with you?" is really not that out of line if you like to have a beer with your movie.

2. How do you "attempt" to go down on a person?  Was he licking her knee?
"No, sweetie, not there."
"Okay, how about here?  Is this your clitoris now?"
"Sweetie, that's my elbow."

3. I guess this does rank higher than "just going ahead and having unprotected sex unless you stop him," but... significantly lower than "actually discussing protection before 0.4 seconds prior to intercourse."

Many things in my life are about control and domination, but eating should be a submissive experience, where you let down your guard and enjoy the ride.  I don't have much patience for people who are self-conscious about the act of eating, and it irritates me when someone denies themselves the pleasure of a bloody hunk of steak or a pungent French cheese because of some outdated nonsense about what's appropriate or attractive.  Stop worrying about how your breath's going to smell, whether there's beurre blanc on your face, or whether ordering the braised pork belly will make you look fat. [...] It's all about the enjoyment of the moment and the company and the food.  And if you can be yourself slurping spicy peanut noodles in front of another person, you may have a keeper.

This issue has an article by Anthony Bourdain!  What the heck is he doing here?  Anyway, it's awesome.  And not just because he writes with actual voice instead of "frenemy's va-jay-jay sexcapades" Cosmo-diction.  It's awesome because this is the only article in this magazine full of anatomically detailed sex talk that is actually about pleasure.

A Cosmo writer could have written "have fun eating, because men like it when you're not self-conscious, and it'll totally improve your mood!"  But it took an outside voice to say "have fun eating, because food is awesome."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bottom skills.

So much "how to BDSM" material is really "how to top."  Which is understandable, up to a point.  The top performs most of the obvious physical parts of the scene--they're the one who has to know how to tie a knot or swing a flogger.  The top is likely to also be dominant, which means that they're going to be the one in charge of planning the scene and directing it.  And the top is also expected to take more responsibility for a scene, because bottoms might be immobilized (or go off into la-la land) and need their tops to watch out for their safety.

There's also a certain bias in BDSM-land toward thinking tops and dominants should be the authorities and their experiences should be prioritized, because... well, partly because they're more often men.  And partly because they're in charge in their scenes/relationships so it's only logical that they be in charge everywhere, even though it's not like the community agreed to submit to them.  So the majority of kink community leaders, authors, and teachers are tops.

As a result of these factors, you can come away from a lot of kink books or conferences thinking that bottoming is... standing there.  (For advanced bottoming, you might kneel or lie down.)  It seems like a purely receptive thing.  Like a beanbag could do it, if you could teach a beanbag to moan and occasionally offer to get people drinks.

This is not the case.  Bottoming well, in a way that creates a great experience for yourself and your top, requires effort and skill.  We are not canvases for the art of BDSM; we are artists too.  Here's some of the things I've learned (or am learning, or need to learn) about being on the bottom:

• Know your desires.
If you don't know what you like, you're not likely to get it.  I've talked about this so much on the blog, I don't want to belabor the point.  Just... have some idea of why you're bottoming in a BDSM scene instead of back at home knitting.  (Knitting fetishists please disregard.)  (That is not entirely a joke.)  Or if you don't, at least be aware that you don't know, and able to say "I'm experimenting right now and finding out what appeals to me."

• Speak up for yourself.
When I first started playing, I had the idea in my head--maybe not in words, but definitely in feelings--that the best bottoms were the ones who were least demanding.  That for me to be an excellent bottom, I should take as much pain as I could stand and allow my top to do whatever they wanted.  I certainly noticed that I enjoyed some activities more than others, but I felt like asking for the ones I wanted would be rude or "topping from the bottom" or selfish or something.  So I just felt happy when I got things I liked, felt sad or annoyed when I got things I didn't, and never gave any external indication of either.

Eventually I burned myself out on the stoicism thing.  I could only suppress my specific desires and limited pain tolerance for so long.  So I became a really grouchy, persnickety bottom.  No, I don't like that.  Don't like that either.  Yellow.  Yellow to that too.  Maybe we should just take a break.  It was frustrating, but it was actually progress--being able to say what I didn't like without being able to say what I liked wasn't very fun, but it beat the heck out of not being able to say either.  My tops were stuck playing "Marco Polo" with my desires, but at least they weren't unwittingly hurting me.

And then--embarrassingly recently--I realized that asking for what you like isn't presumptuous or un-bottomly, it's something that a good top actually wants you to do.  Depending on the sort of scene you're doing, they might not give you everything you like (or they might make you earn it), but they still need to know.  Otherwise they don't know which parts are punishment and which are reward for you, and they're not in control of the experience they're creating for you.

• Look out for your safety.
This is a responsibility tops and bottoms share.  It's more the top's, because they have more control and because they're going to be at fault if the bottom gets hurt, but it's an important bottom skill to be able to help the top keep you safe.  This means knowing and sharing the limitations of your body and your mind, it means using your safewords when you need to, and it means double-checking the top when they do something potentially unsafe.  Your top should notice on their own if they're cutting off your circulation or positioning you in a way that would be disastrous if you fell, but even good tops can miss things, and it's a good idea to also do your own safety checks.

(If you're way off in subspace you may not be able, and then it really is the top's responsibility alone.  But it's a good thing to do if you can.)

• Play along.
This isn't a simple directive but a whole set of skills that depend on how you play.  This is the physical, immediate side of bottoming, and it's a whole lot more than standing there.  It's positioning yourself to assist with an elaborate rope tie.  It's being able to absorb blows.  It's knowing when to push back, when to yield, and when to stand firm.  This really depends on what specific kinks you do, and it's mostly stuff you have to learn "on the job."  And it is things you have to learn.  "Standing there" looks like a no-brainer, but standing in a way that makes it easy for your top to do their job and supports you when you go wibbly and looks good and feels good?  Takes a little bit of brain.

• Give good feedback.
In two ways.  There's the practical feedback, the "oh yeah just like that," the "wow, I'm really just melting away into the wall here," and the "okay, that was the bad ow."  And there's the feedback that tops appreciate and get off on, the... well, actually, the first two sentences above are pretty good examples of that too.  I'm not talking about playing it up and putting on a performance, but a lot of tops really like hearing how much impact they're having on you.  Giving them that, especially if they've asked for it, is good bottoming.

• Know how to cook what you eat.
I don't think this is a requirement for everyone (well, nothing here is required, we're all different and all learning, please don't take this post as a list of "things bottoms must do"), but it's something I value for myself.  I like to know how to perform all the skills that I enjoy having done to me.  I hardly ever top, but I know how to tie a rope harness and where to aim a flogger.  Having this knowledge helps me communicate better with my top, know what I can do to make their job easier, understand and process the sensations I'm receiving, and it gives me a whole lot of appreciation for how much energy my top is putting into the scene.

• Process the experience.
This is the internal work of bottoming, and I don't know what I'm going to write in this section, because it's... magic or neurology or something.  Also a lot of deep breathing.  This is where you take in pain, discomfort, fear, and/or humiliation, and you turn them into something wonderful for yourself.  And very often it is an effort.  It can take focus and intention to turn a spanking from "my butt hurts, ow, my butt hurts again" to "my butt hurts in a way that is giving me the most amazing pleasure."  Or when it isn't pleasure, "my butt hurts and I am strong and I am taking it."  It's almost a kind of meditation.

Everything else on this page is about bottoming.  It's all the logistics around bottoming.  But this part?  This is bottoming.  This is why you aren't home knitting.  And there's nothing easy or passive about it.

•Give aftercare.
Tops drop too.  Tops (at least a lot of them) also get into an altered state when they're playing and they can also come down hard.  So tops might need cuddling and talking after scenes, or they might need to drink water and stretch out and cool off, or they might want to mellow out and enjoy the lingering buzz.  It's good bottoming to be attentive to their aftercare needs as well as your own, and to check up on them a bit after the scene.

Just standing there? Bottoming in BDSM is goddamn hard work, and it deserves to be talked about.